How Coveting Reveals Our Pride
Last Sunday, my pastor closed his “Ten Commandments” Series with a sermon entitled, “The Secret to Being Content.” His take-way: “The secret to contentment is to be satisfied with God and whatever He has or has not provided.” In summary: God does condemn the sin of covetousness (Ex. 20:17) and God also provides a cure.
The sin of covetousness leads us to do things we never thought we would do. We can look throughout the Bible to see the stories of those who fell as a result of this sin: Aiken took what God said not to take (Joshua 7), David took somebody else’s wife (2 Sam 11-12), while Ananias and Sapphira coveted the same praise of another servant so they lied about their acts (Acts 5:1-11). I am no different than any of these people of God, and neither are you. I have noticed that throughout scripture and in life, the sin of covetousness always leads to conflict that negatively impacts our relationships with other people.
Our hearts reasoning: I want what you have or I simply want my own way, which must be better than what you have or your proposed way.
James asks us to contemplate this reasoning:
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but you don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with the wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (Prov 3:34).”
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:1-7 [NIV]).
These are strong words!
In this passage, James reveals that much of our conflict with other people boils down to the simple fact that we want our own way. The gospel calls us to become peacemakers, but according to Ken Sande, most of us are either breaking peace or escaping peace. “Peace-breaking” or “Attack Responses” include assault, litigation, and in extreme cases murder. This reality should put a holy fear in each of us. My natural inclination is to defend myself against you if I feel you are imposing upon me and robbing me of my rights, but the end of that postured position could lead to death.
Therefore, James offers a warning to us against quarreling and fighting, killing and coveting. When faced with these temptations, our best response is to pray for God’s escape and take it! “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it (1 Cor. 10:13).”
That next thing James challenges us to do is: Check our motives. It’s not bad to desire things. The problem occurs when our wants turn into demands. We can discern when we have turned this corner because we grow impatient with our current circumstances, we are not content, and we get anxious. Another sign that we have turned this corner is when we start looking outside of our area of influence only to observe what we perceive God is doing in someone else’s life and we start making comparisons. If only I had this… If only I didn’t do that… I wish I would have… I wish my husband would be like… I hope my kids will grow up to… and the list goes on and on. Before you know it, we are caught up in a world-wind of fantasies and have wasted precious time when we could be discerning what God will have us do right now with the gifts, relationships, passions, tools, and influences he has already given us. Simple questions to ponder regularly are: Why do I do what [fill in the blank]? What is at the root of this desire? If it is a godly desire, pray about it and then honestly ask yourself, how will I respond if God does grant this request?
That is more than enough to contemplate for now. We will discuss God’s desire and his cure for covetousness tomorrow.
© Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2013